Mimi Chang

Nonprofit Executive

Mimi Chang graduated with honors from Brenau University in Georgia. Upon entering the working world, she quickly found that working in annuities, her initial career choice, was less than fulfilling. That being the case, when a friend suggested getting into the hotel development business, she seized the opportunity, eager to test the waters of a new vocation. Although taking part in the development of hotels from the earliest planning stages through to their grand openings brought her some semblance of satisfaction, Mimi still found herself wanting more from her career.

Eventually, Mimi Chang decided to apply her professional skills to nonprofit and charitable work, primarily because of her long-held passion for helping those in need. The organizations she works for deal with a wide variety of causes, some of which include the construction of women’s shelters, animal rights advocacy, funding medical research, and supporting those stricken with debilitating illnesses. Currently, Mimi spends her days administrating the various tasks that are necessary to keep these nonprofits afloat, everything from collecting donations to organizing fundraisers. Although somewhat sidelined by the spread of COVID-19, she has continued to conduct research and raise funds so that her charities can resume their usual operations once the pandemic dissipates.

Where did the idea for your career come from?

To be honest, I think nonprofit work was always something I wanted to try my hand at, even as I was pursuing other professions. There’s something just so rewarding about helping people in need, or, in the case of animals, defending the defenseless. The fact that the welfare of actual, living, breathing beings can be improved by me executing my job well makes me continually strive for excellence.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

My typical work day consists of a lot of administrative work. My primary roles are that of organizer and fundraiser for the various charities I work for, so I spend a lot of time taking meetings, conducting research, and writing reports. Every once in a while I get to attend a function, like a dinner to raise money to fund medical research for a certain disease. Even though those are working events for me, I do enjoy them a great deal. The food is usually exquisite.

How do you bring ideas to life?

The answer to that question is easy: working with my team. In our line of work, we have the luxury of almost always knowing what needs to be done—this women’s shelter needs to be built, or that children’s hospital needs an extra $500,000 in funding—so, coming up with ideas is never a problem. We have no shortage of ideas for how to help worthy causes. Bringing them to life, however, is much more challenging, and frankly, how my team and I spend our working days. We plot strategies for raising money, devise tactics to organize resources, and plan, plan, plan.

What’s one trend that excites you?

For a long time, I don’t think the majority of people took animal rights seriously. Over the last few decades, though, that has begun to change. Now, ordinary people seem to care about the living conditions of livestock, and whether or not pets and other animals are being abused. We’ve seen donations to our animal rights advocacy nonprofits jump significantly since the turn of the millennium. As a lifelong animal lover, I think that’s a fantastic development.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I make sure I get an adequate amount of sleep every night, usually somewhere between seven to eight hours. In my opinion, there is no better way to facilitate workplace productivity. Anyone who’s ever tried to perform well at work after sleeping poorly knows what I’m talking about—it’s a very difficult thing to do. Sure, you can make it into the office after a night of little or poor quality sleep, but are you performing your job to the fullest extent of your abilities? I don’t think so.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Savor your youth, young Mimi Chang. It is irreplaceable.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Almost nobody? Well, I don’t mind paying taxes because they’re used to fund schools, infrastructure, and important government programs. That’s a pretty unpopular opinion.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I recommend that everyone take steps to use their time wisely. I try my best to do so myself. Time is the single most valuable resource that any of us possess. It’s finite, and you don’t know how much of it there is in your lifetime, so if you want to do something worthwhile and lasting before shuffling off this mortal coil, you’d better not waste too much of it. Recharging is necessary, of course, but don’t spend hours upon hours cruising social media, playing video games, or watching bad television.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

I’m not afraid to ask people for things. Sometimes with charities and nonprofits, it seems like all we do is ask people for things—for money, for time, for attention—but it’s the only way to get results. And I find people are far more receptive to solicitation if they know their money is going to a worthy cause. When my team starts feeling a bit awkward about asking, say, a wealthy donor for a large amount of money, there’s an old cliche saying I like to trot out: “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Just after graduating from college, I began a career in annuities. It’s what I studied for, and I thought it would be a good professional path for me. That didn’t turn out to be the case, though. Fairly quickly, it became clear that I wasn’t going to gain the personal fulfillment in that industry that I thought I would. I overcame that problem by totally changing industries; first to hotel development, and then to the nonprofit sector. I’m happy to say that I’m now extremely happy with my job, and I go to sleep each night feeling that I’ve made the world a slightly better place.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

If I were to start a business in the current climate, I think it would have something to do with green energy production. I believe that industry is going to experience exponential growth in the coming few years, and I also believe it will have long-term success and staying power.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

The best $100 I recently spent was a personal donation I made to a charity that I don’t work for—it was an organization that deals with people displaced by natural disasters. I believe it’s important for me to support other nonprofits that do good work.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

If it weren’t for Google Calendar, I would probably miss two or three phone calls/Zoom calls/meetings every day. It’s basically my booking assistant.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

For anyone working in the nonprofit industry, I recommend The Networked Nonprofit: Connecting with Social Media to Drive Change by Beth Kanter. It gives great tips and recommendations for merging new technology with the industry, and just generally bringing charity work into the 2020s.

What is your favorite quote?

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” — Mae West

Key Learnings:

  • Pursue a career that gives you fulfillment, not necessarily the one that makes you the most money.
  • Use your time wisely. No one knows just how much of it any of us have.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for things—especially if it’s on behalf of a charity. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.